Actress Gwyneth Paltrow recently enraged a lot of Americans when she discussed her preference for living in Britain. She was quoted in a Spanish newspaper as saying that the British are more intelligent and interesting than Americans. She explained that Americans talk about what they do for a living and are concerned with money. She found British conversations more "civilized."
While she is entitled to her opinions her choice of words sounded like a put down rather than a preference. Think about what people have said during acceptance awards- "I'd like to thank all the little people." Politicans have lost their positions because of how they expressed their point of view in public. So how can you express an opinion without insulting the audience? Ms. Paltrow could have expressed her delight living in England while also mentioning the cultural differences.
For example, "In adjusting to the British culture, the conversations tend to be different. Americans get down to business more quickly with an emphasis on their professions. In England, the conversation tends to be more personal and social."
The above statement is more of an observation than a judgement. When using the words
"more," "less," or "civilized," you begin to make a judgement. When you compare intelligence you are also walking on thin ice. Words are powerful.
So keep your comments neutral. Voice observations, not judgements.
In public speaking it's both WHAT you say and HOW you say it.